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U.S companies are now allowed to establish a physical presence in Cuba, the Treasury Department announced Friday — a change which will make it easier for people in the U.S. to invest, travel and open up business in Cuba.
The changes, which go into effect on Monday, are the furthest steps the administration has undertaken so far to normalize relations without congressional approval to lift the more than 50 year embargo on trade and travel to the nation of Cuba.
The changes will allow businesses like mail and package services, telecommunications, travel services, religious services, exporters and news organizations to open offices, warehouses and retails outlets.
Businesses will also be able to ship cargo to Cuba to facilitate setup of these physical offices and hire Cuban nationals, according to the new US regulation.
"Today’s announcement underscores the administration’s commitment to promote constructive change for the Cuban people," said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in a statement. "By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.”
However, it is not clear what role the Cuban government will play in this process of setting up these business and in hiring. It's also not clear what these companies will have to do to get the physical structures off the ground through the Cuban government — for example, getting approvals and permits.
People who were previously approved to travel to Cuba in certain categories, such as those making the journey for educational and religious purposes, can now bring their close family members. Journalists on extended assignment can bring their spouses and kids, or people authorized to travel for educational, religious, and humanitarian projects can bring close family members.
Senior administration officials insisted this was not to skirt the ban on overall tourism travel, which remain in effect.
Cruise ships are now permitted to dock in Cuba, in connection with the newly authorized travel.
The FAA is still having ongoing meetings about opening up flights.
Authorized travelers can set up bank accounts. However, senior administration officials don't know what currency those bank accounts would be in.